Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis found in the foot. It is due to:
1. The normal wear and tear that our joints undergo during our lifetime. The saying is true: "If you live long enough, you will develop osteoarthritis."
2. Or, it may be due to a joint injury. This injury can be due to over-utilization of the joint, a fracture, or surgery on a joint.
The most commonly affected joints in the foot are:
The toe joints.
The metatarsophalangeal joints. These are the joints located in the balls of the feet (in the forefoot area) — the joints where the toes attach to the feet.
The most frequently affected joint in the foot is the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint. When this joint has osteoarthritis it is usually called Hallux Limitus or Hallux Rigidus, and people may experience:
a reduction in how far the big toe can be pushed up (dorsoflexion).
pain in the big toe when it is dorsoflexed, or each time we take a step and "push off."
a "hard" bump or bone spur seen or felt on the top of the joint.
swelling around the joint by the end of the day, which may subside with rest.
The most common symptoms that one may experience are:
Brief period of morning stiffness (15 minutes or less).
Aching pain in one or more joints which increases with use, and is relieved by rest.
Pain is not migratory. This means that symptoms are usually experienced in the same joint, rather than in one joint today, and a different joint tomorrow.
The affected joint usually appears swollen, and this swelling feels "hard." However, there is no redness nor increased warmth around the joint.
The affected joint is tender when you apply pressure to it.
The range of motion of the joint is usually limited.
The pathology of osteoarthritis begins with an uneven wearing down of the joint cartilage, which may be due to: over utilization of the joint, an injury to the joint, etc. This produces a narrowing of the joint space, and finally bone begins to rub against bone. When bone rubs against bone we may experience:
decreased movement of the joint
bone spur formation at the edges of the joint surface
a grinding sound or feeling when the joint is moved
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